Jesus and Judgment

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Marc Rastoin, SJ

 Marc Rastoin, SJ / Issue 1802 / 15 February 2018

“God himself is judge!” (Ps 50:6). This exclamation by the psalmist expresses so much about the common belief of the Jews at the time of Christ. There is certainly a judge who will judge both people and nations. “The wicked man reviles the Lord, saying to himself, ‘You will not ask for an account’” (cf. Ps 10:13). But on these words, Rabbi Aqiba comments, “There is a judgment and there is a judge.”[1]

What might seem to be a threat is actually a hope. God’s judgment is not primarily bad news, because faith in a God who wants the salvation of his people and, more important, loves the life of all his creatures, is rooted in both the Book and the religion. “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made” (Wis 11:24). Biblical faith is ultimately animated by this faith that God is the just judge; there is no human empire and no authority that can replace him.

In the Gospel, Jesus shares this belief with his fellow Jews. Many parables, images and words testify to this profound conviction. God will provide justice because it is part of his nature to be a just judge. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7-8a). So Jesus uses a language all his own to talk about judgment. If we try to become familiar with the biblical texts and the Jewish writings that we have received from that period, we can gradually perceive his originality. What does Jesus tell us about judgment, justice and the judge?

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